Recently I took on a new sporting activity…biking. I’m just from covering a bunch of miles while running a few errands, after which I took the longer hillier route home. I arrived sweaty, yuck! I have just showered.
Being a cycler is fun, though the earth rotates around the sun along a different orbit when you’re a female cycler in Kenya. A good-looking (I must add) female cycler in Nakuru, let me specify. There are a few things I have encountered in a few days, now that my bike is barely a month old. It has not yet achieved the social smile milestone, in silly medical terms. And this is what I have gathered:
- Once you buy a bike, more so if you’re female, almost everyone suddenly becomes a bike pro. A bunch of people shall repeatedly ask if you have taken it for servicing. If you say yes, they shall ask if the servicing guy put grease and oil on all the appropriate places and not haphazardly. Some will even say how “he didn’t oil this part! Go buy this oil and place it along the chain like this. I’ll help.” They promise. Never mind the specific servicing guy was hired as advised by several bike owners and sellers as he is the most trusted in the area, and you stood there the entire time as he did his job so you know of the parts he oiled and greased. Another will even ask for your pliers or a screw drivers and to tighten or loose ‘this part’ and ‘that part’.
Fortunately, some give informed advice from their own experience like,” If anything goes wrong, fix it immediately. My bike is cabbage coz I kept postponing.”
- There shall also be that group of experts in selecting bikes who shall emerge soon after you have just purchased it. Wow. How convenient.
“You should have bought a feminine one!” They cry.” Why didn’t you buy one that comes with a helmet?”
“That crossbar is too thin!”
“No, it’s too thick!”
“Your carrier is strange; why wouldn’t you buy one without? And why don’t you have a side mirror??”
Never mind that you took months saving, planning, seeking advice, walking round to see the available options before finally choosing the one you got.
But there shall be those who shall understand that despite their taste for a pink bike which ‘’would suit you better’’, you picked grey or maroon because you had your own preferences. These people respect your options. Or they shall ask to find out what you didn’t like about the pink one. Say, because sellers honestly told you that bikes for females available in the area are not very durable unless fitted with ABCD that costs X amount of money which ends up costing way more than necessary. Or you didn’t pick a second-hand one because other honest sellers said ‘’ex-UK bikes are good, though finding spares is not as easy as for new store-bought bikes.’’
Or that you just did what you wanted and that’s good enough reason. No?
- You shall have friends that shall celebrate the new girl. My girl Felicia and I even tried finding a name for it, before we realized we didn’t have to when we got stranded. To date, she doesn’t know I settled on “Didi” just to satisfy the child in me. But I never use the name anyway.
- You shall make new friends, a variety of them, albeit temporarily.
On the very day I bought it, two people identified me on the road and came over to say hi when I stopped to buy a drink. Little children wave and some look at you with admiring eyes. This little dude stared at me one morning as I rode. He himself was being ferried towards the same direction as I. He never once stopped smiling.
An old man greeted me cheerfully as we passed each other one evening on my way home from one of the evening trips the nearby mall. I wanted him to be my grandfather or my best friend. To bask in the wisdom of his age as betrayed by the grey of his hair. He remains the most jovial I have met so far. Just besides a group of street children I met once when heading to town. One of them laughed, “hahaha! Amevalisha kiti kofia!!” because I had just sewn a blue seat cover for my saddle, and I was officially launching its existence. (Maybe I should have held an inauguration of it in the spirit of #UhuruChallenge). His older mates started casting lots on me, “Huyo ni dem wangu!”
“A-ah! Ni wangu!!”, slightly shoving the first one playfully. And for a moment I was wanted.
Once, I met a young man in his twenties. I was pushing the bike as I was going uphill and my thighs would have none of it when I begged them to peddle harder. He asked me for directions to hospital. I had heard him asking someone else before me some distance ago. An entire happy conversation later, I established that he was a street guy going to present himself for psychiatric admission for the 18th time. Said he runs away from hospital often. He showed me the self-inflicted razor marks on his arms and trunk. He said he had felt honored to have been given audience by me, and wished he had a phone so he could get my number. I said I’d go see him in hospital that evening, and if not so, that chances were I’d meet him during my psychiatry rotations in school.
- You shall enjoy nature and scenery. Obviously.
6. A sense of achievement shall overcome you whenever you fly your way swiftly past big-name vehicles stuck on traffic. “Ah!”, you think, a sense of pride almost setting in, “they wish they were me on this poor bike arriving home in time.” Then you shall realize they can always carry more load and move faster than you, so no one has nothing to brag about.
7. You may become dependent on the locomotive for every simple movement, just the same way some folks drive 100 meters to buy airtime or a newspaper from the local shop or from that guy who stands at that corner every morning.
8. A surprise puncture or damage may cripple your plans for the day and rip your pockets of some good coins. I once went down a steep slope on my way to get something from a store. The hind brakes failed me mid-hill. What! I made a million prayers. And this was the day traffic caused cars to use this alternative route. What! The front brakes were just fine, but I wouldn’t risk the huge fall that would come with inertia. And there was a bump to conquer at the end of the slope. Wow. That day I checked on the price of a helmet at the store.
- Your friends shall need the bike too. Or want.
So today I met two of my friends. One had heard a week ago that there’s a new thing in town and had spread the news to his entire herd. They waited for the day they’d find me to give them. This was the day.
One bragged that he could ride downhill while removing his jacket. The other dared him to prove it, and held me back forcefully (but not violently) when I warned against it. My phone was on the bike. And I sensed a crash with these stunt-pulling. Dude was gone before I could get it. Seconds later… Jacket off his body, dude waving it in the air! Woohoo! Fun time! I admit I was impressed. His pal dares him to go for the shirt now. Woohooooo! Fun! Fun! And I’m just there shouting, and trying hard to ignore my instincts that scream how he’s gonna fall Woohoo! Dude reaching for the hemline of his tee to bare his chest that warm morning. Oh! Wobble wobble! Bike’s losing control… or was it the dude losing it. Bham! Man down.
“Hahahaha! Told you so!”, shouts my instincts.
“F***!”, his friend regrets. More non-sober than the now-patient, he still runs towards him to see if he’s okay. I follow. To see if my bike is okay.
“Arrrgh! I never want to see you guys again!” I cry as I assess the damage on my saddle, peddle, wheel and brakes. Fallen dude is like, “yaani hata hutaki kujua ka niko sawa Joanne?”
“No! Of course I don’t want to know if you’re okay.” I lie. I still check to see if he’s fine though. Then I peddle away. Luckily, dude was noble enough to cater for all repairs.
- You shall run errands way way easier and save money on transport.
- You shall sweat and set targets to achieve as you work out. So you shall burn calories and reduce risks of cardiovascular events. (I’m just trying to sound medical and to justify my expenditure here, hey.) You shall have added biking as the aerobics in your workout schedule (other forms being swimming and running), so a temptation to buy weights next may overcome you, as you continue with floor exercises like leg lifts and press ups. All these to accomplish the ideal triad of a good workout schedule: Weight, Aerobics, floor exercises. Then you shall live healthily ever after.
12. Attention shall be your uncalled-for shadow.
Sometimes I wish to be male. That way, no one gets to bother about the fact that you’re riding. The commonest statement that shall fly towards you is, “Mrembo! Nipe ride!” or, “Nibebe!”. Sometimes I smile, sometimes I completely ignore because perhaps I’m having a calm day sometimes I say,” Narudi kukubeba” then I slow down to make the point more believable.
- You get mad.
This genius once swerved towards me on a highway to scare me into a truck’s path. Haha. Very funny indeed mister. So what if I was a chicken and I dove into the truck? Fool would have just ridden away as I battled for my life.
Then some old-fashioned and very-concerned-about-your-anatomy men shall blurt out, “madam! Unaharibu!” I wish I could punch these fellas.
- You become aware of traffic rules and laws. I took the initiative to ask three county council workers what laws on biking are. I’m apparently meant to stay on the highway and never in the CBD. Boohoo. Otherwise, my bike shall be seized and to recover it I shall need a receipt of purchase with sh.3,000 or face 6 months jailing. So when geniuses see you pushing the bike within CBD and shout, “madam si upande juu uendeshe? Ama nikuje nikufunze?” Yeah. Please do, Angel Michael. Then you remember that Jesus is your Lord and savior and therefore hostile words shall not part thine lips.
- You get a scare once in a while.
Like when you almost fall into a trench coz you’re focused too much on scenery than road, or when heavy trucks pass you on the highway then they honk or swerve, or when you’re in between people and cars and none seems to be moving so you must think fast. Or when you’re approaching cops so you’ve got to think if you carried your license. But some friendly pedestrians shall encourage you like, “mrembo usiogope, uko tu sawa.”
- Thou shalt know thine bike and it’s parts, and very well so.. Like a mother knows her babe well and can tell its desires from its cries. So when Richard goes for a ride and comes back with it making funny sounds, which he shall attribute to “chain yako haina oil“, thou shalt fetch thine tools and fix Didi immediately; since you know that that sound is because Richard shifted the gears without plan so the front derailleur is constantly rubbing against the chain.
- Then thou shalt give thanks and praises to thine Lord God for these experiences in your life now.